kinect in school


10 Great Moments in 2011 for Kinect in Education

Sunday, December 18th, 2011

written by Johnny Kissko

2011 was the first full year Kinect was available, and what an exciting year it’s been! Let’s take a look back at some of the major developments that occurred over the last 12 months.  In no particular order, here are 10 major developments for Kinect in education that took place in 2011.



1.  KinectEducation Begins

KinectEducation officially started in March 2011 with the same vision then that there is now – establishing a  community of developers and education stakeholders to create Kinect resources to use in classrooms.  We’re on a mission to transform classrooms, and we want you to join us.  We’re open for educators, developers, students, parents, and Kinect enthusiasts!


2.  Kinect SDK Released


This was a major milestone for developing Kinect applications.  This ensured that development would have stable support and “plug-and-go” solutions would eventually exist for mainstream teachers without the hassle of compiling code and other things that are very technical-related.


3.  Stephen Howell’s Scratch and Kinect

Simple coding hits the masses with Stephen Howell’s Kinect and Scratch program.  Stephen’s ability to teach and program makes it easy for just about anyone to learn how to develop Kinect applications using Scratch.


4.  Kinect Effect

This, in my opinion, was pivotal for revealing the value of using Kinect in the classroom. This post also features several potential classroom applications of Kinect.  Although much has emerged since this was written, it still provides a great reference point for those new to exploring Kinect.


5.  Microsoft’s Innovative Educator Forums

I know that for myself and many others, this was one of our career highlights.  KinectEducation was presented in Seattle, Washington at Microsoft’s US Partners in Learning Forum where it caught up with the minds of Doug Bergman, Lou Zulli, Margaret Noble, and most importantly, an amazing group of students,  to create a winning project at Microsoft’s Global Forum in Washington, D.C.  US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan also played the game, which was fascinating to see. Judging from Twitter conversations, Microsoft UK and others also hosted exceptional conferences that revealed the talent and skill of several people doing amazing things with the Kinect in their learning environments.

Check out the dinner we had at our last night of the event!

There was a lot of dialogue at the Global Forum about how the Kinect will transform classrooms.  At the US Forum, we listened to Dr. John Medina talk about the value exercise adds to academic achievement.  We also heard Jane McGonical talk about how valuable games are to lifelong learning.  At the Global Forum, Kinect was all the rage as revealed by speakers and activities that took place at the forum.


6.  Kinect in Education Activities

I was honored to be part of this team of amazing educators who developed the first round of Microsoft’s “Kinect in Education” activities.  More resources to emerge here as time passes!

Source: Kinect Activities

Kinect also added Sesame Street and National Geographic to Xbox Live, revealing future possibilities with edutainment.

7.  First “What Will You Create” Contest

We had our first contest to kick-start some dialogue about creating education-relevant applications, and we had two great winners emerge – Nayi Disha and Kinect Math.  It was a little early as most schools have yet to start using the Kinect SDK, but we know this will be a part of computer science curricula soon.  We’ll continually have contests, so stay tuned to what’s next! 

Check out what emerged throughout the duration of this contest and watch this section for new content to emerge.  All the apps you find here will be free for all educators.


8.  Custom App Development and Deployment

New people have started to join the cause and we’re very excited to see what emerges in 2012.  Resources like Kinect Projects at Channel 9’s Coding For Fun, Ray Chambers’ site, and our emerging repository of contributions from people and organizations from around the globe who are on board with our mission.  Stay tuned!

9.  Kinect Accelerator & Kinect Startups

The Kinect Accelerator program was announced in November of 2011 to encourage innovative applications of using Kinect.  Here’s an excerpt describing what the Kinect Acclerator is:

Microsoft is supporting entrepreneurs, engineers and innovators like you to bring to life a wide range of business ideas that leverage the limitless possibilities Kinect enables. Following a competitive screening process, ten finalists will be chosen for this unique three month incubation program running from March to May, 2012 in Seattle, WA. The Kinect Accelerator is “powered by TechStars” using the same mentor-driven methodology pioneered and proven in New York, Boulder, Seattle and Boston. Mentors for the Kinect Accelerator include a broad base of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists in the industry as well as executives from Microsoft Studios, Xbox, Microsoft Research and other Microsoft organizations. Teams selected will receive an investment of $20,000 along with several other perks.  While education is a target, gaming, retail, the medical field, and other sectors also qualify.

Also, we started to see things like “Words with Bears”, Nuvixa’s StagePresence, Reallusion’s iClone 5, and other Kinect startups emerge that will serve to really enhance teaching and learning.


10. “Join the Mission” Campaign Starts

Our first team members are now being announced and more will be announced as time progresses. These introductions will take place consistently and include people from multiple backgrounds and from every continent around the globe!  (For those wanting more content on the home page, the site will be redesigned soon so that introductions will be in a specific area).

This is a very exciting time, and we’d love to have you be a part of our international mission to transform classrooms! From the development of resources to actual classroom deployment, you play a critical role in what we’re doing.  Contact us to join!


That’s it!  2012 will be a very exciting year as Kinect starts to make more of a presence in schools.  Even in my own school, people are now starting to express a desire to learn how to program Kinect and are wanting to use the Kinect in classrooms.  Delivering a connected education for all learners will soon be a reality for students across the world.


With everything going in with Kinect, there’s undoubtedly more stories to be told. What’s your story for 2011?  If you have something you’d like to share, contact us and we’ll share it here!



The Whole-Person Learner: Kinecting the Gaps in Education

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

At the beginning of every year, I tell my students I have two indicators that determine our success. The first, obvious method of measurement has to be their test scores. This is a non-negotiable if I’m going to maintain my job and if they’re going to advance academically.

However, the second indicator is far more revealing of my level of influence on their growth and development. If they come back to visit me the following year – when they don’t have to, when their motive is genuinely guided by a desire to simply reconnect – this reveals that the values promoted in class – values embodying lifelong learning – were well-received. This is how I ultimately measure my influence and success as their educator.

It’s a tough balancing act. Many times, it feels that one indicator comes at the expense of the other.

On the outside looking in, it sounds fairly straightforward…but it’s not, as any student, teacher, or school administrator will attest. Even when I’d speak to student teachers at Texas Tech University, I always struggled advocating for this model.  I always knew it was the ideal model we needed, but I had a hard time answering how to effectively and consistently integrate this paradigm across all content areas.  All I could really do was point to the research and show what I now feel like was a very “canned” ways of doing things. 

But do that too long and it becomes rhetoric.

Before reading further, please watch the video below created and submitted by Kartik Aneja (download here).

and, if you have yet to see the “Kinect Effect,” watch this:


…I think we’re finally moving beyond the rhetoric.

The aim of KinectEDucation is to facilitate this “Connected Education” by developing, promoting, and integrating Kinect resources in classrooms. Certainly, it’s about showcasing Kinect developments, exploring resources that promote gaming in education(thanks Pat!), helping others learn how to program with ease, and integrating standards-driven activities for Kinect in education.  

Although Kinect bridges the gaps that have existed in education and can literally connect all dimensions together, it can’t be done with a device alone.   While Kinect is integral, we also need passion-driven educators like Melanie Wiscount, Gareth Ritter, Lee Kolbert, Cheryl Arnett, and Pat Yongpradit who promote content that teaches social awareness.  We need educators like Angela Maiers who are guided by the philosophy that there are no lazy children, just children who have yet to find something they’re passionate about.  Finally, we need visionary leaders like Ollie Bray to help ensure we use technology to promote development equally as much as we promote content.

At KinectEDucation, we’ve gathered an amazing  group of people who are passionate about education and are experts within their respective fields, many of whom will be formally announced soon.  But this is not about a group of people and is not limited by region. These are just the people who have expressed initial interest in contributing towards this renewed classroom model. This community is open for everyone to contribute; an open platform is needed if we’re going to do this.  Together, we can make big things happen around the world.

Everyone has a unique skillset.  If you have a similar vision and possess skills or content to contribute, share them.




Kinect Reflections After 30 Days by Cheryl Arnett

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

Cheryl Arnett

is an elementary teacher from Craig, Colorado.  In 2010, she was a winner in Microsoft’s US Partner in Learning event. I had the opportunity to meet Cheryl this past summer and have maintained contact with her through an initiative we are working on together with to develop Kinect activities.  An inspiration for all, here are recent reflections Cheryl sent about integrating Kinect in her classroom.

Tomorrow will be our 30th day of school. My first graders are engaged in learning and growing. One of the highlights so far has been the inclusion of Xbox 360 Kinect games in our lessons. The children loved that from the minute they saw it, but, for me, it has been a learning process for the teacher. Using new technology tools in the classroom involves extra time and thought during implementation. The payoffs, however, can be quite rewarding. That has been the case with using Kinect.

Equipped with the TV, Xbox360, Kinect sensor, and a wide selection of games, I began the year with many ideas and expectations for inspiring learning in my students. Two obstacles presented themselves right away. The first was, and always is in the classroom, time. The second was how to manage 21 students and one gaming system. Loving a challenge, I jumped in and began to experiment.

The time issue dissolved as I moved past the need to use the games just because they were there. When any technology tool becomes a natural part of the learning process (no different than using a pencil and paper), it becomes powerful and incorporated where it will do the most good. Rather than planning times for Kinect, I am now considering the wide variety of possibilities (check out the growing list of ideas from Kinect in Education) to enhance our lessons. As with all learning tools, you start with the learning objective, then select the methods, tools, and materials that best achieve the desired results. Used in that way, Xbox 360 Kinect, or any video gaming system can become a part of learning without creating a time problem.

Management is another common issue in the classroom. Engagement has never been a problem as my students are mesmerized by the Kinect games. I could tell right away that if I could direct their enthusiasm, we were sitting on a gold mine of learning possibilities. The difficulty was that only one student could actually "play" the game at a time. The other students were cheering and enjoying the process, but there was not enough active learning participation to suit me. The game Body and Brain Connections helped me solve the problem. That particular game is full of activities that reinforce math concepts I teach. We are working on addition to 10 and learning a variety of ways to make each number. One game is called Perfect Tens (facts for 10 are an important skill to master). The player has to use his or her hands to mark two numbers with a sum of 10 before the timer runs out. We discovered that the Kinect sensor focuses in on a narrow enough area, that while one student was actually controlling the game, all the other students could participate from behind and beside the player. The results were delightful and obviously productive:


I added to the lesson, recording sheets for each child to keep track of his or her score. The children can see their own growth and are motivated to improve their score as in any video game setting. They are learning the facts for 10 more quickly than I could have imagined and they think they are playing!! (The scores will soon become another lesson as we use arrow cards to learn about place value and how to read big numbers.)

Of course, learning the facts for 10 is just one of the many skills we will inspire with our gaming system. The possibilities are endless. Patience is the key. Rather than forcing the games into lessons, I will find the natural applications as they arise. Group participation is the next key as managing the use of the tool becomes no different than passing out paper for spelling practice.

The final advantage and payoff for using Kinect in the classroom is the addition of activity to stimulate both the body and the brain! The first brain rule (Brain Rules by John Medina) is that exercise boosts brain power. Children naturally want to move so why not channel that movement into the learning process! Everyone wins!

After just 30 days of learning with Xbox 360 Kinect, I am convinced that it holds tremendous potential for education. A little time spent working out the bugs and exploring the possibilities will reap great benefits for children!



“Hand Drawn” 3D fonts using kinect

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

by Tom Smurthwaite

On Saturday 3rd September I visited the Brighton mini makers faire, taking place at the Dome. A remote controlled Dalek welcomed me in the foyer. Stalls of interactive projects led me to the back of the room where I found this kinect project. Hand Drawn is an experiment in collective gestural art. Participants are invited to draw a letter in space, which is recorded by a Kinect sensor. This was very neat and while I watched I saw small children and adults wait for their turn to draw. I see some great possibilities in remedial education and in early years writing. It uses open source drivers and processing to produce 3D fonts that can be printed.


Direct link:Font design using Kinect sensor (hand drawn)



Evolve Your Podcasts with Kinect & StagePresence

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

Kinect is continually proving to provide instructors and learners with new ways to engage with content. One innovative tool harnessing the power of Kinect is Nuvixa’s StagePresence. StagePresence provides plenty of justification to purchase a Kinect for any classroom implementing podcasts. Using StagePresence and Kinect, the “flipped classroom model” can be taken to an entirely new level.

Any instructor implementing podcasts or videocasts (“vodcasts”) needs to consider using this tool to leverage the time they’re already spending creating supplemental content. StagePresence allows viewers to actually see the instructor solving the problem. Traditional podcasting methods typically only allow for a screen recording of a problem being solved. While that’s effective, I would highly speculate that the viewer (learner) is more engaged when they can actually see their instructor solving problems.

I plan to use this to create daily video instruction for my students and parents to view on their mobile devices or computers.

You can download a “Sneak Peak” of StagePresence from Nuvixa’s website. Check out my video example below for a visual example and imagine students being able to load similar content on their mobile devices and other accessible technology. In addition to what I show here, there are many other features of this software that I will showcase in the near future.



Kinect Lesson Plans: Teaching Math & Functions

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

Lesson name: Teaching Math Concepts Relating to Functions with Kinect

Content Area: Math

Standards: Data and Probability, Functions, Independent and Dependent Variables, Domain and Range

Age group: Grades 8-10 (Algebra I)

Software needed: Xbox 360 with Kinect and Kinect Sports

Supplies needed: Materials for collecting and displaying data (paper or technology)

Lesson description: In this activity, students will play Kinect Sports to learn concepts relating to functions. Depending on class size, you may have students split up into four different groups. Have students assess all the potential input variables that might determine their output (performance) on any of the Kinect Sports games. For example, students may collect data on height, arm length, athletic history, etc. in order to see if they can predict performance on the Track and Field activity. This is also a great way to teach the difference between quantitative and qualitative data.

After several students have participated, have the class plot points on an xy coordinate plane, where x represents the input factor (height, for example) and y represents the output (total distance traveled, for example). Separate graphs will have to be made for each input factor assessed.

See if students can determine what input factor can be used to best determine their performance. Explain how being able to plot this performance would reveal a linear function.



Kinect Lesson Plans: Teaching Math with Kinect

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

Special thanks to Cheryl Arnett for posting this in the forums.


Lesson name: Teaching math with Kinect Adventures

Content Area: Math

Standards: Number Sense and Relationships, Data and Probability, Computation Appropriate

Age group: Elementary 1-5

Software needed: Xbox 360 with Kinect – Kinect Adventures

Supplies needed: Materials for collecting and displaying data (paper or technology)

Lesson description: By playing any of the Kinect Adventures games in teams of two, a class can generate data by recording scores. All ages can use the scores to create graphs and charts. The scores can be used for young children to learn to read, order, and compare 2-3 digit numbers. Older students can use the actively generated data to compute mean, median, and mode. Data can be collected over time and students can use computational skills to measure their score growth as well as compare team scores. How much more engaging can data and statistics be than when generated through competitive, active game playing! The game sessions are short enough to provide time for many players and there is no end to the math that can be performed with the results. Explore the possibilities by testing scores with one player as opposed to two. Connect online with another classroom and gather data for gaming at a distance!



3 Things Kinect Needs to Be Successful in Education

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

It hasn’t even been a full year since the Kinect was released; furthermore, it’s only been a little over one month that the official Kinect SDK was released. While it’s still early to see the Kinect hit mainstream classrooms, I’ve made some early observations that might help others integrate Kinect in their learning environments. Please keep in mind that these are a reflection of my early observations and will assuredly change as time progresses.

Using written and verbal communication I’ve had with other educators as a source, here are three things that must be addressed to allow teachers to effectively integrate Kinect in their curricula:

1. Reformed classroom model

Here is the model I’ve proposed for integrating Kinect in a standard classroom:

Kinect Education Classroom Model

You may choose to adapt the structure and modify the projected cost to fit your needs, but this provides a decent framework. Consider that for a relatively small price, you can transform your classroom from the traditional model to an active learning center where education is engaging, personalized, and aligned with brain research.

When the straight-row model is needed for assessments or instruction, simply realign the desks.

The way I intend to pilot the use of Kinect in my classroom next year is to have the desks set up as shown above when students enter class. For 10-20 minutes, they will interact with their content, which I will then follow with instruction and other forms of assessment. Depending on the activity, they may realign their desks to the straight-row model or leave them as they are. At the end of class, students will interact with content again, just as they did at the beginning of class. When the next class comes in, the desks are already structured in the way I need them and I can repeat this process for all classes.

The challenge is in finding the content. However, more development tools are emerging and the process is getting easier to seamlessly develop your own active learning content. You can create your own games and adapt the content to meet your needs.

2. Software: User-Generated and/or Commercial

Earlier this year, I designed a teacher’s guide to Kinect integration. From feedback I’ve gained, it’s been useful, but that feedback may be skewed. I’ve found that the teachers integrating “indie” Kinect developments in their classrooms at this point have a stronger background in computer science and it’s still an intimidating process for educators in other content areas.

In my opinion, the best thing for Microsoft or any other independent developer to do would be to develop software similar to FAAST, but (1) use the official SDK to do it and (2) provide a graphical user interface for it. This would simplify the process for anyone to make software Kinect-compatible.

For those who have never heard of FAAST, it allows you to bind gestures to keys. For example, you could program the software to input the “s” key when leaning left twenty degrees, or the left arrow key when you step left 12 inches. However, it’s a little cumbersome to use. If you’re interested, check out the guide linked above for more details.

I’m also a fan of commercial software, but I just see more opportunity to target standards and individual classroom needs if the software is developed by education stakeholders. I’ve set up a community where people can upload and download their own developments to allow Kinect integration in classrooms. While it’s still emerging, I expect its effectiveness to evolve.

For example, I recently had the opportunity to play with Kodu, which I was first introduced to during a learning session presented by Pat Yongpradit at the Microsoft Innovative Educator Forum in Redmond, WA. The simplicity of designing education-relevant applications with this software was very appealing, but my biggest “aha” moment came upon realizing that Kodu plus Kinect integration has the potential to completely redefine what a typical classroom looks like. Applications don’t have to be complex to add a new active learning dimension to typical classroom content. Here’s a brief video of Kodu in action:

Adrian Dede also introduced me to Interrobang, which could give interactive content further meaning by introducing a badge system and providing a healthy level of competition.

Check out the emerging Kinect Applications for Education community, where you can download and upload Kinect software for education. It’s early and there isn’t a much content yet, but my thought is that once good content is produced and uploaded, classrooms will start evolving.

3. Paradigm shift

In work I’m doing with other educators, the end response to integrating Kinect in classrooms has been positive, 100% of the time. I have yet to find one educator that denies the implications that Kinect has for their own classroom and the field of education as a whole.

However, initial responses often reflect apprehension. Putting myself in the minds of other teachers, I understand. When first mentioning using Kinect in education, this is often deciphered by teachers as meaning “playing shoot and kill games in the classroom.” This is a classic example of the law of association. The only exposure many people have to video games is the negative attention received in the media.

I’ve learned the best way to approach anyone about using the Kinect in their classroom is to define it as an input device first, much like a mouse or a keyboard operates. This breaks that negative association and people become much more receptive to listening further.

We continue to talk about 21st century learning as if it’s still the year 2000. Say good-bye to rhetoric by promoting the use of active learning in classrooms and contribute your lesson plans, ideas, and applications to KinectEDucation.



Digital Storytelling with Kinect

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

Digital storytelling just got way, way cooler…

With iClone and Kinect, teachers and students will be able to interact with virtual objects and scenes in real-time.

First seen on




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